Thursday, June 16, 2011

Lonely Man

The ways of the world are breaking me in two.
One half is drowning. The other half is swimming.
One half is helpless. The other is happy.
The happy man worries about the drowning man.
The happy man is good with words.
The drowning man detests words.
He never talks. He met the happy man at a party.
He had no idea what he was going to say.
The happy man had stolen all his words.

"We will fight the worst of our fears," the happy man was saying.
"I can't even make sense of a stop sign," thought the helpless man.
"Sometimes I feel like there's something missing."
"I feel like there's something missing all the time."
"What brings you to this party?" asks the happy man.
"I wanted to steal my words back," says the drowning man.
"I can't give them to you that easily," says the happy man.
"My life is a mess. I've said that much. Now all I want is a few words."
"What makes you think words are the answer?"
"They are my foundation. Without words I am bereft of life."
"I always thought there were more important things."
"Well there are not."
"O.K. Here are some coins. Here's a penny, a nickel, and a dime.
Start out with the penny. Let things fall down on you.
Let wheels, bottles, and bowls fall from the sky.
It might hurt, but you have to get used to them again."
"Here, take this."
"What's this?"
"It's a dollar. These are my struggles with a novel I will never read,
a trip I will never take, and a person I will never meet."
"Thank you. Your goals are within reach.
All of them can be done with pennies, nickels, and dimes."

Both men went away happy though neither knew truly how to swim.
One was the water. The other was the coins. One was the dollar.
The other was an idea. One was the water. The other was the swimmer.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Night is Broken

I remember my dreams in the lines between an article
in yesterday's newspaper. There was more interesting news
on the front page. The article was buried in the cold zone
of a weather report. It was the record high for the city
where it happened. There are 200 dreamers in the metropolis.
It never rains when I dream. My eyes are brown and sometimes
green in my dreams. The night is broken by my footsteps.
I am walking slowly into the news of my melody.
I am partly blind and sometimes sunny. My dreams are humid.
I am occasionally in the city of my thirst. The roads are being paved
while I dream. The traffic turns left into my dream.
They drive new cars into my past. They sleep at rest stops
while I write letters to Dear Abby. Over 200 dreamers subscribe
to my newspaper. They are sound asleep now.
     They dream the newspaper cover to cover.
Their dreams are reprinted in the pictures.
The pictures are sent to the sleepless nights of the city press.
The deadline is the home team's last at bat. The 200 dreamers
are on the visiting team. Their manager wakes up when the traffic
comes to a stop. He drives an old car lost in the city's network
of dreams. He asks a reporter for directions. The reporter writes
a story that the home team went to work while the dreamers sat out
a rain delay. Their uniforms are clean and sometimes dirty.
The grass of the infield grows high so stories will be slowed down.
The paper of the scorecard is green so the pitcher will remember
the color of his eyes. He throws a curveball that curves right
in my dream. My infield wakes up in the dawn of our victory.
The smell of the fresh cut grass undoes the deadline
of the home team. A dandelion appears in the outfield.
The loss outshines any escape the dream is able to make.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Circus

I get my nose pierced by an old lady
with pointy knitting needles.
I get a tattoo of flying dust clouds full of mustangs
from an old basketball coach.
I breathe in the sweet, humid air spiked with sawdust.
I walk past the center stage throwing shadows
through the crowded grandstand.
I walk by the red striped awning of a cart hooked
to a swinging lantern.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Form of November

I met the abstract man composed of ideals
hidden in geometry. He had no voice,
and neither did I. He was strong between his speechlessness
and the form of a book. His despair is in having been
constructed. His hope is that nature will vanish
into industry. I met him in front of a factory.
He had made a choice.
     I was subordinate to his voice.
     I was a child of production.
The factory employed me in spring.
It was November, and I hadn't made a pitchfork
in months.
The subordinate man was labored with mood.
It was November, and we both began to speak.

Friday, May 6, 2011


The day unfolded. The map unfolded.
We looked at the day. We looked at the map.
The wheel had turned once, and I came to visit you.
Your location was a bike stand in a Tucson doorway.
The spokes of the sun tightened our bond.
A photograph drove the blue into the sky.
There were ants and roads in the park.
We climbed out of the desert into a picture.
Our pedals flew west into the arms of an arboretum.
We cooled our canyon feet in a stream.
The saguaros looked one way when you walked by them
and another way when you rode by them.
In the corner a cliff was getting ready to move.
We rode a headwind home. I stretched.
You ate some pretzels.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Dear Mr. Wilson

Dear Mr. Wilson,

I am unemployed. I am a poet.
I hope you don't take these facts about myself in a bad way.
Mr. Wilson, you may have known my father.
He had a 32" softball bat and a left-handed glove. 
I could always make six out of ten free throws from the foul line.
Our family was a secure one and a happy one.

Saturdays have always been my favorite day.
In the old neighborhood I wore a red sweat jacket with a patch
of the Chicago Sting sewn on where a shirt pocket might be.
The Chicago Sting is a soccer team. I was a great soccer player.
Unfortunately, my pep never got utilized thoroughly in,
that other sport, baseball. I would wear that sweat jacket
on Saturdays and rake leaves. I often got paid for chores around
the neighborhood, but I don't especially remember if I got paid
on Saturdays. This memory is permeated with the smell
of leaves burning. By evening, I usually began to get lonely.
I would walk home thinking of one pitcher especially.
My dad usually had a game on television.
His favorite team was the Boston Red Sox.

In the seventh grade I took a position at one of our local
baseball camps. I taught outfielders to turn their back
on the ball and chase it down with glove outstretched.
One of my students is the current centerfielder
for the St. Louis Cardinals. You may have his baseball card.

Upon graduation from high school, I took a job teaching
carving for a dollhouse company. My salary was paid
by an endorsement I did for the LimeDime popscicle product.
I often traveled. I made a point of walking into the poorer
neighborhoods on these trips. I was not scared. I found people
were usually happy with an explanation such as, "Hi, I have
a little girl. It's her birthday, and I'm snooping around
for some rags to make her a doll."

It's amazing that people never mind their own business
once you're friendly to them. On one porch I sat down on,
two little boys were tussling over a piece of curtain
that the red-headed one worked from his friend's shoulder.
He had been using it to attach a tree branch to his back.
As I walked up the stairs, I passed him marching around
like a soldier. It actually would have made a good scarf
for a doll if I had been creative in those days.

Dear Mr. Wilson,

My brother and I play at toy soldiers.
My sister is at the kitchen table. She is painting a dollhouse.
There is a signing off on my mom's show,
and we all gather around the radio to hear the clues
of Tom Mix - a cowboy on the trail of an outlaw Indian.
The toy soldiers are scattered, and my sister's painting supplies
are not put back in her bin. My father's paper is turned
to the page he stopped at in order to listen to the closing
of the program. We sit for a while in peace.
I tap my brother on the shoulder. My sister lights a candle
in the living room. I ascend the staircase first.
We dream of how to solve The Case of the Masked Man
which is this week's mystery. At breakfast the next day
we never talk about our dreams. 

Dear Mr. Wilson,

My dad's office is in the other direction than my walk
home from school. Sometimes my brother and I have exhausted
strategies for our skirmishes. I walk a few extra blocks
to the office. Mother serves tea. I drink the lukewarm tea.
Father uses a tin cup. I settle up to his drafting table.
I go over his drawings of the tilt-boards he uses to compartmentalize
the knobs and reels of the cameras that Orson Wells uses.
Sometimes I have just begun doodling. He walks in, messes up
my hair, and says, "Ain't that the truth."

I usually walk out the side door after that. My train of thought
is interrupted, but sometimes it's a good thing. On my way home
from the office, I stop at a basketball backboard. It is attached
to a tree hit by lightning. Mr. Wilson helped my father bolt
a metal rim to the stark face of the tree.

A Small Heaven

Give so that you may not be rejected.
We don't know how to treat ourselves.
You will find us in shallows, ashes I always need to talk.
You and I count on substance. He walks with a book
that weighs more than any you have in your knapsack.
She sweats through the first few pages of a letter.
My father is a reformer. My mother weaves the family crest.
The clues are well-placed. We have not succeeded.
I am tired of looking at things that are well-made.
God is not composed. Let us pray.

My best friend doesn't know how to spell.
My father is a generalist. I am a reformer.
We are both guests and housekeepers in this hotel.
As Dad, he struggled with me until math was simple.
As son, I forgot the pressure of the classroom.
The bricks of the schoolhouse passed through me
on the way to the library. I read underneath the painting
of a pen on the stage. It is only a painting I remember.
I prepped my walls and felt black instead of white.
I went to the fairground and heard the music
of my boiling days. I was a soldier without a battle. Let us pray.

My father told me to run with moderation.
My father told me to bicycle until I healed my weakness.
I played games until they began to seem like a classroom.
My dad and I played tennis. We followed baseball.
I sought to make a masterpiece in art. It took me years to learn
that repetition is an element in art. Let us pray.

A Rote

Great is the pull that controls me.
Humble is the pilot who flies me.
Fate is the wrench that turns me.
Destiny is the drum that keeps me time.
Deduce my story, differentiate me.
Finished is the grain inside me.
The end is near. Real is my hope to vanish like thief.
The start is miles away. Hurl my light restore me.
Do you find that your mind is in a kitten?
I wasn't banging up on you.
I was in the middle of a rote. 

Luff, that was tuff. The playoffs were a curse.
You knew that. I didn't. No money could bring us together.
I got good, and you got better. At noon it was complete.
Some year the best will do nicely.  Better than most,
that's what we said. Ride the trains or don't,
what does it matter to me.

I'm in the hornet stinging us bad.
We're in the moon watching you good.
Apples and oranges, the pumpkin is me base.
We are all I ponder. Flirt my night become me.
Grand the illusion desire me.   

Four of the days of the week are commas. Three are apples.
How fluid everything is. Enough of the fox that stops me.
Coasting is the mop I clean with. I do it for the reds and the blues,
sometimes the yellows, but let us not speak of things
that are beyond us.

I was the one destroying the good times. Yesterday I was depressive.
Today I am statistical. Multitasking in a hooverville yesterday,
I shut up ten cowboys. I'll cut you in half with this spoon,
this mattress, this nothingness.
Let us abstain from intellectual activity and play tennis.

A mile ain't so high. I been there. Maybe I still am.
We're still on the ground, babe. We're Jo in the dance
that leans on the universe. I follow Grail when the lads
strike up the band.        

I fade in and out like Manhattan on a button hook.
State nothing, yet say everything.
The allusion is a mild pleasure I possibly felt. Where is my voice?
Where is my heart? Lost in their luff.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


It would be nice to be able to read.
I'm learning how to read a new way. I hear the letters.
It's like reading a page of tiny flies. The s-h-u-z-u-z-z-i-n-g
is barely audible at first. It's familiar to me from the u-z-z-i-n-g
sound my bicycle tires make when I ride the crushed lime path.
I am on the path to find a book. So first I have to go to market
before I decipher the letters. Here, the insects will be helpful too.
Some of us here are looking for fruit, some for a new pair of shoes,
and some for a new identity.

I would be nearest to the type looking for a new pair of shoes.
As I said, the buzzing gets into my clothes so it follows
that it also get into my shoes. The pair of shoes I have now
is rather silent. They are a light pair of shoes. I can jump
over two feet in the air in them. This will get me to the top shelf.
The books still obey the rule of going no higher than the top row
at your pedestrian shelves. Most people believe that it was Lodi
who gave the books wings. Booksellers began noticing that several
of their books, usually the garden variety kind, were missing.
The books would be returned by people with serious overtones
in their kindness. "They must stay here for the time being.
The books need to be incubated," was the cryptic remark
the booksellers usually got.

Some of us readers, and we are few and far between,
noticed usually at the joints, the elbows and the knees, a tingling -
not uncomfortable - decidedly literary buzz. It was nothing
like arthritis or tennis elbow. I noticed it was like a fly caught
inside my elbow. Someone else told me they had a bumblebee
in their knee. I zoned out to the sound, several minutes later
noticing two pages turned in my book with complete comprehension
of the character I'd been reading who carried a skillet everywhere.
Others reported taking a book down from a shelf, being lulled
by a faint buzzing, returning the book unopened, and understanding
new qualities about characters left impoverished turning into friends.

One morning the bookseller Hearnszy noticed a faint buzzing
as he got ready to open his shop for business. He walked into his
shop, and it was as he said, "like the sweetest sound a fly can make."
That reminds me of the satisfaction of riding my bike on the path,
but back to the story. Hearnszy checked his e-mail. He noticed
he had e-mailed himself. The message said, "Hearnszy, open the front
and back doors of your shop, let a draft through, and the books
will follow." He scratched his elbow. It would be nice to listen
to the sound for a while, but might as well do what the message said.

The first to leave were several early editions of Leaves of Grass.
Several self-help manuals followed. Next a quote a day book
took to the air and snored through the narrow passageways
of Tilted Mind Books out into the wide afternoon. Hearnszy expained,
"The books that took to the air sounded like they were softly snoring
through my shop. None of them seemed to be in a hurry.
I actually read The Song of Occupations while the book took most
of the morning to dally out of my shop."

The state of affairs when I arrived at the marketplace was wonderful.
Half of Hearnszy's shop was emptied. The air was thick with flies
and bumblebees. A handful of books, who had not undergone
the transformation, loitered on the sidewalks at about eye level.
Most people were attracted to the flying insects because as Hearnszy
said, "Their sound was so sweet." The sound of my bicycle tires was
still buzzing through my body in the background. I found a copy
of Song of Myself outside the shoestore. It was an easy jump from
the ride to the cosmic buzzing of Whitman's loafing dance.
I have led several students into the new age.

The key seems to be bicycling up and down the path to get that
background buzzing in your body. The eyes still need to see the print,
but it is merely an object to meditate on - an aesthetically pleasing
one at that. I teach my students to treat their individual bicycle
buzzing as the page. There are mainly two characters in this new
language: the sonorous buzzing of the bumblebee and the ticklish
buzzing of the fly and all their combinations. I tell my students
they are reading unique books because each of their pages is formed
by a slightly different tire rolling round and round.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


Friends are an open book.
They are the ingrediants of a fulfilled life.
Conversation is food. Silence is drink.
Personality is a gift. Ideas are candles.
     Expression is a runaway train.
Feelings are like leaves on a tree,
responding in the wind.
Belonging is like sitting at a fireplace.
Truth is gold. Questions are in the shadows.
The warmth of answers keeps flickering
in the fire.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Read my face

Read my face. I won't turn digital on you.
Brush my eyebrows with your long lashes.
Coil your fingers into my ears. Season my blood
with your breath. Lap at my nose with your wet tongue.
     Consume my hair in your fire.
Rule my earth with the color of your eyes.
Fight my battles with your fists.
I have no protection from you.
My shoulders are your two small mountains.
Your arms of fire dance in my forests.
I bathe my feet in your waters. Build your castle
on my two shoulders. The horizon of your lips
crosses a sea of tenderness. Birth me from the pupil
of your eye. Make my bed in your oceans.
Love me with your clouds. Dress me in your robes.
Give me a scent. Give me dreams in the desert
of your creation. Sleep with me in a home.
Undo my sharp corners. Silence my mind.
Make the sign of peace in all windows.
Witness my life. Toss me to the winds.
     Break my spirit with your law.
Feed me to hungry lands. Test me on your vine.
Rub mud over my eyes. Teach me how to change
colors in autumn. Fill my lungs with tropical air.
Make me as complicated as a snowflake.
Give me a horse to ride. Give him eyes of crescent moons.
     Make his hoofs out of the darkest coal.
Make his nostrils like wildfire.
Shatter my beliefs like thunder.
Give me the faith of all animals.
Let the races tremble at your name.
Lift me out of my body and into yours.
Send me a message that will never be deciphered.
Say my name in the innermost sanctuary of your temple.
Wash my face with the most subtle breeze of spring.
Cast me into the wilderness.
     Wound me with your superior spears.
Renew the enviroment with your fertile mind.
Enrich the soil with my decomposed dreams.
Catch the wildest fox. Turn the army into white light.
Patch the injured with new alphabets.
Critique the ending of this age,
and comment on the beginning of a new day.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Four Forevers

Inside my heart are four forevers.
One is my occupation. The second is my speech.
The third is a flower. The fourth is a grain of sand.
The flower grows out of the grain of sand.
The speech determines the occupation.
The occupation is the outlet that calms.
The calm is a little louder than silence.
The men and women speak a little louder than the calm.
I am all those who have this occupation when I am done.
I am all the words that these men and women speak.
     The grain of sand is silence.
The flower is all the songs that are being sung.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Village

Find the lost time of a train that has already left.
She travels on the plains easily seen from a mile away.
Her destination is a village I am hurrying toward.
It began thirty years ago. I wanted to tell you earlier
that I only travel by nature trail. Stop me at this signpost.
Enjoy the view through a row of birch trees.
I understand you've lost track of time.

I'm beginning to save the minutes that are spent by a pond.
Even the frogs remind me of traveling.
A conductor punches my ticket at the next signpost.
He keeps up the tradition. I hope to see him tomorrow.
It is only another mile, but I plan to camp here
at the birch trees tonight.
     The village is closer now.
I see some boys tossing a football on the other side of the pond.
A man walks swinging a briefcase by their game.
He is waiting for the train too. A woman yells at her child
to tie his shoelaces. They are both waiting for the train.
It will get here tomorrow. I lie in my tent and read about the pond
where the frogs make chorus like a train punctuating the night.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Boat Man

inspired by Langston Hughes

The boat man I am to become is a reachin'
for his oars.
He is a betterin' his place in nature.
He is a swayin' on the crest of the future.
He is a fallin' outside his past.
He dares to flow a moment in the present.
He hears the weary thump-twang of the blues
rollin' in and out of his reach.
He grows strong in the darker mood of his croon.
Tomorrow we'll say to him, "Your song
is still echoing through my head."
"My song, brother, is the old piano moan
of midday mixed with mingling rock and jazz."
Its sound is so near, there's no room for fear.
We are a wave of sorrow out on the river.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Mice

All around the ranch the mice race.
By nightfall each mouse is a full-fledged mouse.
They are shipped to a great brain so big it needs
neurons the size of mice.

Earth Day:
Heavier than the pyramids
is some conscience
we hold about the earth.
Our planet, her sorrow,
and a sky remote in answers
all call miracles to be worked.
Take into account the bread of many,
for answers are in all hands.

The Child:
The child aspires to live.
Unfortunately for it,
it is only posing as a code
for the body to unlearn.
Bound to a puzzle,
locked to life, each signal
in the sky betters his picture.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Highway 17

There is a waterfall in nearly every Provincial Park in Canada.
A gnome keeps his workshop under glass in the visitor center.
An actor and an archeologist trudge down the stairs
for photographers and those sorts of people.
They have left Highway 17 to find the gold in Rainbow Falls.
The gnome knows nothing of gold. He is busy making wheels
and pipe cleaners and other sorts of things by the water rushing
and his hammer threshing. He is busy winnowing the spokes
for the wheel of a wheelbarrow he will use to haul pipe cleaners
and water bug fossils and other sorts of things.
Out of the corner of his eye he sees the actor and the archeologist.
He knows he has seen one of them in a reflecting pool somewhere
although he cannot remember the cavern.
     Faster than a fox trap eluded,
he hammers out an epigram to send the two of them on their way
to the next waterfall. Then he hastily breaks camp and twists
three pipe cleaners into a wind chime.


We follow the map from Mattoon to Olney,
the renowned home of the white squirrel.
We check the business district. We keep a lookout
through neighborhoods of modest homes.
     We search high and low.
Our map is no currency in this strange land
of the white squirrel. We circle the block
two more times feeling cheated. Finally,
we slow down to 5 M/P/H on a side street.
Low and behold who should cross the street
but a diplomat of that rare permutation -
the Olney white squirrel.
He keeps the claim to fame of his small town alive.

The Bluest Eye

I stand in the grass and photograph the Walldog pines.
The penguin figurines are now quarter size penguins
in a winter when football games are going on in a restaurant.
     Dad started the tradition of taking self-portaits.
I walk to the end of the pier with my bicycle
and photograph it in front of the lighthouse.
The visitor center overlooks Lake Michigan.
Now a storm moves in. It's beautiful the way it is now.
I find The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison at Door to Door Books.
The foghorn resonates in the sudden change of weather.
I hear the sound of my tires a few feet in front of my stem
on the rails to trails path. It's sixteen miles to Sturgeon Bay.
I hope to hug the coast, take a side road inland, and pick cherries.
One ship was lost, but all were safe. They carried fencing and grain.
Saw only red, green, or whatever color the signals are out there.